Elementary Schools Information Guide
Katharine Dean, center, and her parents Linda and Dan Dean, at the awards ceremony at Constitution Hall.
Award-winning teacher was nurtured
in Oakland schools
When the Presidential Award for Excellent in Mathematics and Science Teaching was bestowed last month on 213 teachers from across the United States, among them was one who got her start in the Diocese of Oakland.
The commendation for Katharine Dean, who teaches high school students in Oregon, noted that she "strives to address the needs of all types of learners. She creates a collaborative learning community where all students can bring their strengths to the scientific process. She finds great satisfaction in the art of teaching by using her creative expression to provide classroom experiences that build confidence in her students and help them to recognize their innate ability to understand and participate in authentic science."
That love for authentic science and participation for all have their roots in Oakland, where Dean grew up.
She is the daughter of two longtime Catholic school teachers, Dan and Linda Dean.
Dean graduated in 1987 from St. Theresa School and in 1991 from Holy Names High School, both in Oakland.
Her education prepared her not just for the stage at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC, where she received her award, but for every day in the classroom.
"I feel blessed to have been educated by the Sisters of the Holy Names from first through 12th grade," Dean said. "Their approach to education with an emphasis on service and social justice influence every aspect of my teaching."
That influence is part of her life. "What I do is all influenced by them and their philosophy," Dean said.
After high school, Dean graduated with bachelor and master of science degrees in animal science from the University of California at Davis. After completing her master's degree, she faced a choice: research and obtaining a doctoral degree or teaching.
The call was to teaching. "I wanted to give back to that system and be able to affect students' lives in the same way my life had been affected by these women," Dean said.
To this day, she said, the Sisters remain her "heroes and mentors."
She taught biology at St. Joseph Notre Dame High School in Alameda from 1998 to 2006. Then she moved to Oregon, where she first taught at rural Estacada High School. There, her animal science degrees came in handy, and she mentored a FFA group and taught agriscience as well as biology.
She has taught for four years at Centennial High School in Gresham, Oregon, a Portland suburb. She teaches biology and anatomy in an urban setting, much as she was prepared to do in her teaching credential program at Holy Names University in Oakland. The focus on that program was meeting the needs of minority students in urban schools.
Using culturally responsive pedagogic techniques, teachers are "trying to change the way we're teaching to serve the students."
Some of her students in Oregon, for example, are refugees from Southeast Asian countries. Dean and her fellow teachers are sensitive to how the students from these cultures learn.
Asked what keeps her motivated in her teaching, Dean said, "a lot is based on getting kids to see themselves as scientists: getting girls to see themselves as scientists, getting people of color to see themselves as scientists."
They might see themselves as scientists by looking at the walls of her classroom, which feature photos of scientists such as astronaut Mae Jemison and physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Dean's students are working with mentors, "scientists who look like them."
Her hope is that they will "see themselves doing science."
Since receiving the award, Dean has been hearing from former students. What has pleased and surprised her is that the number of students who have pursued STEM careers, including several doctors who were her students at St. Joseph Notre Dame.
As for teaching science, she learned something about that at home.
"I always watched my Dad," she said. "He always included science at the kindergarten level."
Dan Dean taught kindergarten at the School of the Madeleine in Berkeley for 10 years, and spent the next eight as vice principal and technology coordinator. He also served at St. Paul School in San Pablo; St. Leo in Oakland; St. Joseph Notre Dame High School and St. Joseph Elementary in Alameda. He served as principal at St. Charles Borromeo School and St. Paul School in San Francisco. He spent his final year of teaching at St. Raymond School in Dublin before his retirement.
Linda Dean taught for more than 20 years at St. Theresa School in Oakland. "I wore a lot of different hats," she said, as a homeroom teacher for the junior high, religion teacher and liturgy coordinator. One of her joys was in creating, with then-principal Sister Barbara Bray, SNJM, a music, art and drama program for seventh- and eighth-graders.
Dan and Linda Dean have three children.
"We're all teachers," said Linda Dean.
back to top